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Dog shot by police becomes a federal case

A federal court will hear the case of a woman who claims her constitional rights were violated when police in Milwaukee shot her 7-year-old mutt four times in 2004.

The case of Bubba, a Labrador/springer spaniel mix, appears to be the first such case of its type to go to a federal civil rights trial in Milwaukee, where it is set to begin before a jury this week.

Bubba’s owner, Virginia Viilo, sued the city and two police officers in in 2005, claiming her constitutional rights were violated when an officer fired shots into her already-injured dog.

Over the past decade or so, Milwaukee police have shot more than 400 dogs in the line of duty, according to court records, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. About 25 of those, including the shooting of Bubba, were fatal.

The city has already appealed the case to the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago, arguing the officer had immunity when he shot Bubba. In a September opinion, the higher court denied the appeal and took a harsh view of the shooting.

Viilo says Bubba was a playful dog who romped with neighborhood children and visited residents at the nursing home where she worked.

Police say Bubba was a threat to them on the day they encountered the dog. They say he charged them, growling and baring his teeth.

Officers — one armed with a shotgun — went to Viilo’s home looking for a wanted man they were told had a pit bull, police said. They didn’t find their subject and Viilo said she didn’t know him, according to her attorneys.

As the officers approached the front door, Viilo, some guests and Bubba were in the backyard. Bubba barked and jumped over a fence and ran toward the officers, police said. One officer fired twice, hitting the dog at least once, and fracturing his front leg. The dog retreated under some bushes.

Viilo contends the subsequent two shots were not necessary and were wrong. After Bubba was shot the first time, Viilo tried to get to her dog and call for a veterinarian, but police denied her attempts.

After the shooting, police wrote Viilo a $122 ticket for letting Bubba run loose.

Comments

Comment from carey
Time December 5, 2008 at 1:14 pm

I’m not a lawsuit happy person, but good for her. Anyone who can shoot a wounded animal (except wildlife-to put it out of it’s misery) has to be made of stone.

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